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Millions in drugs, tobacco seized in joint investigation into crime network, say Winnipeg police

Click to play video: 'Winnipeg organized crime unit targets inter-provincial organized crime network of drug traffickers in Project Highland' Winnipeg organized crime unit targets inter-provincial organized crime network of drug traffickers in Project Highland
On Monday, authorities from the Winnipeg police, the OPP and Manitoba Finance and Taxation disclosed the results of Project Highland, which began in April 2019. This collaborative effort resulted in the seizure of millions of dollars’ worth of illegal drugs from an inter-provincial organized crime network. The raid took place Dec. 18 – Dec 23, 2019

Police say they’ve disrupted a sophisticated organized crime network that was bringing millions of dollars worth of drugs and illegal tobacco into Winnipeg.

Police released details of the operation, dubbed Project Highland, Monday following a series of coordinated raids in Winnipeg, rural Manitoba, and southern Ontario last Wednesday.

READ MORE: Winnipeg police, OPP raid homes in joint operation into ‘highly sophisticated’ crime network

Winnipeg police said the investigation started in April when local police uncovered “the centre of an interprovincial organized crime network led by local high-level drug traffickers.”

Police say they found 13 kilos of cocaine during the raids. Global News

“The primary criminal activities of this organized crime group involved the transportation of multiple kilograms of cocaine, opioids, significant amounts of illegal cannabis and tobacco originating from southern Ontario into the City of Winnipeg,” said Insp. Max Waddell of the Winnipeg police Guns and Gangs Unit.

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“The organized crime leaders then orchestrated the drug sell logistics, and provided the drug supply to their subordinates for distribution throughout Manitoba and Northwest Ontario.”

Waddell said the investigation grew to involve the Winnipeg Police Service Organized Crime Unit, Ontario Provincial Police, as well as Manitoba Finance and Taxation.

 

Police say the raids resulted in one of the largest illegal tobacco seizures Manitoba has ever seen. Global News

Video posted to the Winnipeg police Twitter account Monday shows armed-officers executing early-morning raids with loud bangs heard during the clips.

Police said eight search warrants were executed at five homes in Winnipeg, one in the RM of Tache, and two in southern Ontario during the coordinated effort.

Click to play video: 'Winnipeg police, OPP seize millions in drugs, tobacco after investigation into crime network' Winnipeg police, OPP seize millions in drugs, tobacco after investigation into crime network
Winnipeg police, OPP seize millions in drugs, tobacco after investigation into crime network – Dec 23, 2019

In all police say they seized 13 kilograms of cocaine, 45 lbs. of illegal pot, 21 bags of cannabis edibles, 246 cases of cigarettes, 824 xanax bars, 362 grams of MDMA, and 370 grams of magic mushrooms.

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Police say the total street value of the drugs and illegal tobacco seized is more than $2 million and with 2.46 million individual cigarettes confiscated, they say the bust will likely be the largest single seizure of illegal tobacco in Manitoba’s history.

The potential triple tax penalty for the illegal tobacco is more than $2.2 million and the lost tax value would be $739,000, said police.

Waddell said the cocaine “is some of the purest cocaine we’ve seen in over 15 years.”

Click to play video: 'Manitoba sees ‘largest single seizure’ of illegal tobacco in Project Highland raid' Manitoba sees ‘largest single seizure’ of illegal tobacco in Project Highland raid
Manitoba sees ‘largest single seizure’ of illegal tobacco in Project Highland raid – Dec 23, 2019

Officers also found $120,000 in cash, hundreds of rounds of ammunition, and drug-dealing paraphernalia including a cutting agent, digital money counters, scales, and a cannabis extraction press during the raids.

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Several vehicles were also seized including a 2017 Jaguar and a 2015 Lexus NX200T.

Police say the drugs and tobacco were coming into Winnipeg via commercial transport trailers and personal vehicles.

Cops found cash-counting machines and cash during the raids. Global News

Police arrested 10 adults in the operation including five from Winnipeg, one from the RM of Tache, three from Ontario, and one from Calgary.

Waddell said roughly 160 police officers worked together during the nearly nine-month operation.

Click to play video: 'RAW: Winnipeg police seize millions in drugs, tobacco during Project Highland raids' RAW: Winnipeg police seize millions in drugs, tobacco during Project Highland raids
RAW: Winnipeg police seize millions in drugs, tobacco during Project Highland raids – Dec 23, 2019

“This investigation was very challenging, organized crime does not work Monday-Friday, 8-4,” he said.

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“Initially you never really know what you’re going to uncover, but as we went along it was very clear that these 10 individuals were involved in a highly sophisticated organization.

“It is literally weeks of planning, reallocation and redeployment of resources, communicating from one province to another.”

Police found 45 lbs. of illicit pot as well as edibles in the raids. Global News

The suspects, who range in age from 24 to 37, are charged with 34 criminal code offences related to conspiracy and trafficking of a controlled substance, proceeds of crime, unlawful possession of cannabis, and possession of illicit tobacco.

Waddell said the arrests and seizures would have “far-reaching” benefits for the city.

Click to play video: 'Around 160 police officers worked on Project Highland operation' Around 160 police officers worked on Project Highland operation
Around 160 police officers worked on Project Highland operation – Dec 23, 2019

“The reason I say that is not only from a social perspective, economic perspective… these drugs are going to get into other hands of other distributors and that’s going to prevent further drug rips, further violence,” he said.

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“And lastly from a health and safety perspective … this cocaine would have been cut a minimum three times and we all know what they’re cutting cocaine with — other illicit drugs and opioids that can be fatal.

“I feel very confident that the drugs we’ve removed here are going to be responsible for making sure people are safe in the City of Winnipeg.”

Click to play video: 'Winnipeg police, OPP make coordinated raids in Project Highland investigation' Winnipeg police, OPP make coordinated raids in Project Highland investigation
Winnipeg police, OPP make coordinated raids in Project Highland investigation – Dec 19, 2019

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